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A CurtainUp Review
Thank God for Jokes
This observation segues easily into his directly addressing a noticeably late-arriving member of the audience. It goes on a bit too long but it is, at her expense, funny. She not so much amused as slightly embarrassed. Many of Birbiglia's acute observations are not jokes at all but stories taken directly from his life experiences. This was true of his previous one-man shows, Sleepwalking with Me and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend in which he used his own idiosyncrasies and misgivings about human nature to frame something close to being a play.
In Thank God for Jokes , as informally directed by Seth Barrish, Birbiglia frames his relaxed ninety-minutes around a guest appearance as the host at the 2012 Gotham Independent film Awards where he unwittingly got into a quagmire of his own making over remarks about director David O. Russell. Birbiglia also makes it clear that "jokes are a volatile type of speech," and that all jokes are offensive to someone; to illustrate he recalls his gig at a Christian college where he referred to Jesus as a Jewish socialist."
Birbiglia displays an instinct for selecting incidents that have been personally meaningful as well as universally true. His point being that his own humiliations and misadventures in life have led him to see and share the humor behind them; for example, a visit to his urologist, an encounter with a policeman for driving with a suspended license, and a testy encounter with a flight attendant over the presence of nuts in his sandwich. Less funny is a longish digression about his "bombing" on a Muppets show because he cursed.
Dressed in a plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers, Birbiglia has an almost perpetual smile, as he gives us examples of his being empowered by even his most unfortunate and embarrassing encounters. He also prods audience members to share their own unfortunate situations which unleashes more unexpected humor than one might assume. As it seems obligatory for all comics to include a little potty humor these days, Birbiglia obliges with a short chat he and his wife had with our President about baby poo.
Is everything Birbiglia says funny? No. But, for his fans and for those who are just getting to know him , Thank God for Jokes is basically just him saying to us, "I want you to know my side of the story."
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Thank God for Jokes
Written and performed by Mike Birbiglia
Directed by Seth Barrish
Scenic Design: Beowulf Borritt
Lighting Design: Aaron Copp, Davison Scandrett
Sound Design: Jim Corona
Production Stage Management: Lauren Cavanaugh
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes no intermission
Lynn Redgrave Theater/Culture Project
45 Bleecker Street
Tickets: From $56.50
Performances: Wednesday-Sunday at 7:30pm, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 4:30pm
From 02/02/16 Opened 02/10 Ends 05/29/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/23/16
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